July 17, 2012

Counterfeit Religions VII: Bahá'í

Bahá'í is a virtual potpourri of spirituality and religions. It is a religious sponge that absorbs everything around out like spiritual osmosis. Baha'i is extremely pluralistic, even more so than Hinduism. It seems to focus on many individual paths to salvation and gives off the appearance of plurality and tolerance (like Hinduism). Therefore it thrives in our current Postmodern culture/society.

Religions like Baha'i (and Hinduism) will claim to be monotheistic but Baha’ism appears more akin to henotheistic which means that they believe in one supreme or a specially venerated god who is not the only god or deity. Baha’ism is pluralistic in its acceptance of many religion’s prophets as all being manifestations or the One True God. Therefore it views god in a multiplicity or at least as modal or taking on different modes at different times. Either way, it becomes confusing when trying to pin down exactly what Baha'ism deems god at any one given time or place. It is similar to trying to tack sub-divine 
Jell-O®  to the wall. 

Dates 1863 the year that marks Bahá'u'lláh's declaration of his mission.

Founder(s):  Sayyid `Alí Muhammad Shírází (1819-1850), The origins of the Bahá'í Faith go back to a religious movement founded in AD 1844 by an Iranian merchant. Like Christianity was birthed from Judaism, Bahia/Bahai had its origins in Shi'ite Islam. Some places where Bahai deviates from Shi’ite Islam though is that they allow for more prophets other than Muhammad. In its inclusivist nature women should play an active role in society. There is no holy war (jihad).

Major text(s): The Kitab-i-Aqbas by Bahá'u'lláh. It is the book of laws in Bahá'í. Secondary texts are: collections from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, prayers and meditations, Epistle to the Son of Wolf and the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys

Major Variations:  There appear to be none at this point in time. Bahai in and of itself seems to be a religious sponge absorbing all religions and denominations by accepting other religion’s prophets as all being manifestations or the One True God. The very nature of the tenants to unite humanity and their beliefs make it pluralistic/syncretistic to the extreme. It seems as if it could be the Postmodernist’s religion of choice as it sees all beliefs as being equally valid. Because of it’s all inclusive nature there seems as if there can be no variation as it accepts all from Christianity to worship of one’s pet rock.

Current Number of Adherents: Although they only have 7 million adherents they have a rather impressive infrastructure worldwide for their spread of their beliefs. Since they are pluralistic in the approach to other key figures in other religions being messengers of God, they appeal to pluralistic viewpoints which appear to be rampant right now. This would advocate a quick spread.

Beliefs About Major Holidays and Practices: Bahai has a substantial list of holidays so I will only note them here: Nineteen Day Fast, Naw-Rúz - Bahá'í New Year, First Day of Ridván - Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh, Ninth Day of Ridván, Twelfth Day of Ridván, Declaration of the Báb , Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Martyrdom of the Báb, Birth of the Báb, Birth of Bahá'u'lláh, Day of the Covenant, Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. As noted below beliefs about the supernatural, there is a strong proclivity towards pluralism as noted in their acceptance of many other key figures in other religions such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity. There is an obligation to pray daily. Adherents are also encouraged to meditate daily, specifically on their deed and their deed’s worth. Bahá'í houses of worship are intended  gathering places to pray, meditate and to be the focus of community life humanitarian concern. Worship services if they can actually be called this have no sermon, rituals, or clergy. They appear to be a nebulous form of prayer, music, and reading of the Holy writings of all religions, especially the writings of Bahá'u'lláh In keeping with ? Bahai’s universalistic nature, houses of worship are open to people of all religions. Bahai seems to be the extreme version of Interfaith ecumenicalism. Bahais worship can also be at a member's home every 19 days, and through active service to their community.

Beliefs About God:  Bahai appears monotheistic, believing in one, all-powerful creator God. They believe that God is ultimately not knowable in his essence or being, but God can be had through God's Messengers or manifestations. We learn more about the Bahai God by the interactions of the adherents with society and other adherents (including those of other faiths).

Beliefs About Humanity:  Bahai doctrine stresses unity of mankind, the unity of the world's religions, and the progressive revelation of God to humanity. Baha’is believe in the oneness of humanity and devote themselves to the abolition of racial, class, and religious prejudices thereby making themselves pluralistic and universalist in nature if not outright syncretistic. Something that is very popular in the westernized nations of the world right now.

Service to humanity is a major tenant of Bahai. Of particular interest in the Bahai religion is how it interacts with the world and attempts to spread its faith. It has founded The Universal House of Justice (1963). It is the “Vatican” of the Bahai faith and serves as its highest authority. This shows that the faith has a centralized earthbound authority that gives guidance and coordinates activities. This has aided the spread and consolidation of Bahai communities around the world thereby increasing number of adherents. They also disseminate education and act in other humanitarian ways to improve the life of human society and in particular the pursuit of projects of social and economic development in well-established Bahai communities. The Universal House of Justice is based in Haifa, Israel

Beliefs About The Supernatural (Angels, Messages from God):  Clearly believe in God sending messengers as in the case of Baha’u’llah. Having been incarcerated for his belief he realized he was the prophet whose coming had been predicted by the Bab. A majority of Babis recognized this claim and afterward became known as Baha’is. Additionally, it is in places like the idea of the prophet in Bahai-ism that we begin to sense the universalist or pluralistic nature of Bahai. Baha’is believe that the founders of great religions such as Abraham, Jesus, the Buddha, and Muhammad were all sent by one God to reveal God's attributes and will in the terms that were appropriate for the time. In this manner Bahai is strongly universalist/pluralistic in its approach. This

Beliefs About The Afterlife:   In Bahai in the afterlife, the soul is separated from the body and begins a spiritual journey towards God through many planes of existence. Clearly a salvation by works, the believer progresses on a journey towards God. If the soul fails to develop in a form of sanctification, one will remain apart from God. This condition of being distant from God can in some sense be understood as "hell." As for Heaven or Hell being destinations it must be said that Bahai doesn’t believe they are literal places but as different states of being. Where Christianity sees the spiritual world as be distinctly “other”, Bahai views the spiritual world as a timeless and placeless extension of the universe. Other than this the nature of the afterlife is rather mysterious for Bahá'í and not well articulated nor elaborated on, at least in the sources I have referenced.

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